Ways you can help City Harvest grow

Even if you aren't a community gardener, you can help City Harvest, says Claire Baker of Philadelphia Green, which runs the prison-gardening program. It can always use gardening books and tools, fruit and vegetable seeds, mature perennials or trees and, of course, donations.

And while the 32 community gardens that participate in City Harvest constitute a manageable number, Baker says others are welcome to participate.

You're probably thinking you have enough to do with your own little plot. But this is easier than it sounds. Most community gardens designate one or more raised beds for City Harvest, and as few as two gardeners often handle the planting, harvesting and delivery to a food cupboard.

Last year, Vinton and Michelina Deming grew about 300 pounds of collard, kale, mustard, turnip and spinach greens, onions, potatoes and garlic in a single raised bed at the Warrington Community Garden in University City.

"It was a joy to do that plot and our own," says Vinton Deming, a retired magazine editor.

Over at Summer Winter Garden, named for the home streets of its founders, Don Nilsen and four other gardeners meet on Tuesdays at 7:30 a.m. to work on three designated City Harvest beds. Nilsen is a retired interior designer with plenty of time, but he says three of his fellow volunteers manage to help out and still leave for work by 9 a.m.

These five gardeners grew 237 pounds of fresh vegetables last year for City Harvest, whose goals - fresh food and fitness - are dear to Nilsen.

He rarely drives his car or buys canned goods. He eats mostly fresh fish and veggies and often walks from his home in Powelton Village to shop at Reading Terminal Market at 12th and Market Streets.

As for getting home with all those packages, he says, "I take the trolley."

For information about City Harvest, call 215-988-8876 or go to http://www.cityharvest.org/.

- Virginia A. Smith